If Roger Federer‘s back and knee are as rehabilitated as his spirit, we might see the long-awaited 18th Grand Slam trophy hoisted high down under. The Swiss wonder has aged more gracefully than any tennis eminence in history, but as he pursues the elusive 18th Grand Slam, roadblocks have been repeatedly thrown up by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. (And sometimes by fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka.) Though still near the top of his game, Federer has gone since Wimbledon 2012 without a Grand Slam title. Suddenly though, with Djokovic and Murray making shockingly early exits in Australia, Federer has a good-looking chance.
Coming off a six-month layoff to rehab physically, Federer’s reemergence at the Australian Open hasn’t been an easy one. More of a baptism by fire, in fact, as he’s had to beat 10-seed Tomas Berdych and 5-seed Kei Nishikori to advance. But the road looks a lot nicer up ahead than it does when Djokovic and Murray clog the way.